Farmers Scramble in Midst of Labor Shortage

American farmers are struggling to secure adequate farm labor in the midst of a statewide shortage of farm workers and a national climate of hostility to immigrant laborers.

The last year has been difficult for farmers who rely on a steady stream immigrant labor. Several states have recently passed tough new immigration laws, with Arizona’s, Alabama’s, and Georgia’s being the most prominent, intended to limit the ability of illegal immigrants to obtain employment. In addition, Congress’ failure to address immigration reform, particularly current Work Visa requirements, have limited the ability of many farmers to obtain temporary workers.

Added to the larger hostile climate is a nationwide economic slump. Combined with the immigration crackdowns, the American unemployment rate has limited the influx of illegal immigrants, leaving farmers scrambling to find enough workers to harvest their spring and summer crops.

Without enough workers to harvest crops, many farmers face either disastrous losses or significantly reduced yields. According to the Farm Bureau’s congressional liaison, “There have been instances in which growers had to disc up whole crops because they didn’t have the workforce to harvest. The workforce has been decreasing in the last two to three years, but last year it was drastic.”

Last week, Farm Bureau officials spent time lobbying Senators and Representatives to pass the 2012 Farm Bill, as well as pass legislation relaxing guest worker requirements.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer